College Football Playoff will not consider Army-Navy game in selection process

The Army-Navy game won't factor into the College Football Playoff selection process. (Danielle Parhizkaran/Getty Images)
The Army-Navy game won't factor into the College Football Playoff selection process in the new expanded playoff. (Danielle Parhizkaran/Getty Images)

IRVING, Texas — The College Football Playoff will not consider the result of the Army-Navy game into its selection process, CFP leaders determined on Wednesday.

Army and Navy traditionally meet on the second Saturday in December, a date that presents complications for CFP selection: It falls six days after the selection committee gathers to pick the 12-team field.

An issue festering for months now with CFP leaders: How to handle the selection process if either team is in contention for the Group of Five’s automatic playoff spot.

On Wednesday, Day 2 of its annual spring meetings, the CFP Management Committee decided to treat the game as a sort-of exhibition contest. If either Army or Navy wins the American Athletic Conference championship and is the highest-ranked Group of Five champion, that team will advance to the playoff, in all likelihood as the No. 12 seed, despite having another game to play six days later.

The decision ends one of the more pressing issues on the agenda this week in Dallas for the CFP Management Committee, which is made up of the 10 FBS commissioners and Notre Dame’s athletic director.

Navy athletic director Chet Gladchuk, who served on the selection committee in the past, says he is “grateful” that the CFP did not exclude Army and Navy from consideration to make the CFP.

“I am relieved it turned out the way it did,” Gladchuk said.

In a story earlier this spring at Yahoo Sports, school officials from Army and Navy encouraged the CFP to make an exception for the game’s result. That would have meant the selection committee choosing 11 of the 12 teams and waiting to fill the 12 seed until the completion of the game if Army or Navy were in contention. The committee would likely have also needed to announce an alternate 12 seed if Army or Navy — whatever team was in contention — lost that game.

The decision would have triggered a fascinating issue. Waiting a week to name a No. 12 seed would have meant that the No. 5 seed would be tasked with preparing for two opponents and would only learn of its opponent a week before kickoff.

At first, CFP leaders had encouraged school officials to move Army-Navy to the normal regular season. That was not possible, according to stakeholders.

“We are not moving the game,” Gladchuk told Yahoo Sports in February. “It’s staying there. If the Army-Navy game is critical to the selection process, let us play the game in the spirit it represents.”

There are complications with shifting the game. The contract with CBS requires the game to be played on that date. There are obligations to corporate sponsors, host cities and the military itself. The game’s television rating has soared since it moved in 2009 from conference championship Saturday to its standalone spot the following weekend — a shift made to highlight the clash of U.S. armed service men and draw eyeballs across the country.

The 2009 game was the most watched in the series in a decade. Last year’s Army-Navy game delivered 7.2 million viewers to make it the 21st-most watched game of the college football season.

While chances of Army or Navy’s impact on a four-team playoff were slim, the 12-team format gives either program more of an opportunity as it grants automatic berths to the five highest-ranked conference champions in an FBS division now with four power leagues. Stakeholders acknowledge that the chances of Army-Navy impacting the expanded playoff remain distant, but the possibility still exists.

In fact, if the CFP’s 12-team format were used in 2015, Navy would have potentially qualified as the highest-ranked Group of Five team when reflecting realignment shifts that have since happened.

Army will join Navy next year as a permanent member of the AAC. The two teams will not meet during the normal regular season but could meet in the AAC championship game one week before their traditional neutral-site clash as part of the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy series.

With its decision, the CFP veered away from a protocol in place during the four-team playoff. The protocol required the selection committee to delay any pairings — a New Year’s Six bowl game or playoff seeding — involving Army or Navy if the result of the game impacted such.

The expanded playoff also presents other problems for Army-Navy.

The game could soon get competition in its standalone spot from the relocation of bowl games. Leaders are exploring moving up the bowl schedule a week.

During last year’s opening day of bowl season on Saturday, Dec. 16, seven bowls were played. On that third Saturday this year, Dec. 21, three first-round playoff games are scheduled to kickoff, with a fourth played on the preceding Friday.

Bowl Season executive director Nick Carparelli told Yahoo Sports in February that the organization is exploring shifting at least some of those bowls up a week to expand television windows and avoid TV conflicts with playoff games. Final decisions likely rest with ESPN, owner and rights holder to the majority of bowl games.

On a conflict with Army-Navy, Carparelli said, “We’d be respectful of that game. We know its history.”